Hidden Figures (2016) movie review & summary & introduction

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“Hidden Figures” was released in 2016, directed by Theodore Melfi. The film was produced under the backdrop of significant social and cultural awareness regarding gender and racial equality. It sheds light on the untold story of the African-American female mathematicians who played crucial roles at NASA during the early years of the space race. The production faced the challenge of accurately portraying the historical context of segregation and discrimination prevalent in the United States during the 1960s, while also celebrating the accomplishments and resilience of the film’s protagonists.

Difficulties in Making the Film

One of the primary difficulties in making “Hidden Figures” was ensuring historical accuracy while also creating a compelling and engaging narrative. The filmmakers had to navigate the complexities of accurately depicting the experiences of the film’s real-life protagonists—Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson—within the context of the segregated society they lived in. This involved extensive research into the social, political, and scientific landscape of the 1960s, as well as consultation with historians and experts familiar with the era. Additionally, the production faced the challenge of finding the right balance between authenticity and cinematic storytelling, ensuring that the film remained accessible and relatable to modern audiences while staying true to the experiences of its characters.

Director and Cast

Director: Theodore Melfi Actors:

  • Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson
  • Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan
  • Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson
  • Kevin Costner as Al Harrison
  • Kirsten Dunst as Vivian Mitchell
  • Jim Parsons as Paul Stafford

General Concept of the Movie

“Hidden Figures” is based on the true story of three African-American women—Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson—who worked as mathematicians at NASA during the early years of the space race. Set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement and the Cold War, the film highlights the challenges and obstacles faced by these women as they navigate a predominantly white and male-dominated workplace while making significant contributions to America’s space program. Through their brilliance, perseverance, and determination, Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary break barriers and overcome prejudice to play integral roles in some of NASA’s most historic missions, including the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit.

Complete Story of the Movie

  1. Introduction to the Characters: “Hidden Figures” introduces viewers to the three protagonists—Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson—who work as mathematicians at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia during the early 1960s. Despite their exceptional talents and contributions to the space program, they face discrimination and segregation in both their personal and professional lives.
  2. Katherine’s Role in the Space Program: Katherine Johnson, a gifted mathematician, is assigned to the Space Task Group, where she calculates trajectories for space missions, including the upcoming launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. Despite facing skepticism and prejudice from her male colleagues, Katherine proves her capabilities and earns their respect with her accuracy and expertise.
  3. Dorothy’s Leadership and Innovation: Dorothy Vaughan, a supervisor in the West Area Computing Unit, takes on additional responsibilities as she sees the future of computing shifting towards electronic computers. Despite facing resistance from her superior, Vivian Mitchell, Dorothy teaches herself and her team how to program and operate the IBM mainframe, securing their place in the new era of computing technology.
  4. Mary’s Pursuit of Engineering: Mary Jackson, a talented engineer, faces obstacles in her quest to become NASA’s first African-American female engineer. With the support of her colleagues and a determination to overcome institutional barriers, Mary successfully petitions the court to attend night classes at a segregated school, paving the way for her to achieve her dream.
  5. John Glenn’s Historic Flight: As the launch date for John Glenn’s historic flight approaches, tensions rise at NASA’s Langley Research Center. Katherine’s calculations are crucial to ensuring the success of the mission, but she faces challenges accessing the necessary information and resources due to segregation policies. With the support of her colleagues and supervisor Al Harrison, Katherine overcomes these obstacles and delivers the calculations in time for the launch.
  6. Triumphant Success and Recognition: John Glenn’s successful orbit of the Earth marks a significant achievement for NASA and the United States in the space race. The contributions of Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary are finally recognized, breaking down barriers and opening doors for future generations of African-American women in STEM fields.

“Hidden Figures” is a powerful and inspiring film that celebrates the resilience, brilliance, and contributions of three remarkable women who defied the odds to make history. Through their courage and determination, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson shattered stereotypes and paved the way for greater diversity and inclusion in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

If the film is adapted from a book

“Hidden Figures” is based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly. The book, published in 2016, delves into the untold stories of the African-American women mathematicians—Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and others—who worked at NASA during the Space Race. Shetterly, whose father was a research scientist at NASA Langley Research Center, grew up in Hampton, Virginia, surrounded by the women whose stories she would later chronicle in her book. She spent years researching and interviewing the women and their families to bring their remarkable contributions to light. “Hidden Figures” not only celebrates the achievements of these unsung heroes but also explores the broader themes of race, gender, and equality in America’s history of space exploration.

Best Features of the Movie

  1. Historical Accuracy: “Hidden Figures” is praised for its historical accuracy in depicting the lives and achievements of the real-life women mathematicians at NASA. The film provides a compelling portrayal of the challenges faced by African-American women in STEM fields during the 1960s, including segregation and discrimination, while also celebrating their remarkable accomplishments in helping to launch the first American astronauts into space.
  2. Inspiring Story: The film tells an inspiring and uplifting story of perseverance, determination, and triumph in the face of adversity. Through the experiences of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, viewers are inspired to pursue their dreams, overcome obstacles, and make a difference in the world, regardless of their race or gender.
  3. Strong Performances: “Hidden Figures” features standout performances from its lead cast, including Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe, who bring depth, nuance, and humanity to their characters. Their portrayal of the real-life women mathematicians at NASA is both powerful and moving, earning praise from audiences and critics alike.
  4. Compelling Themes: The film explores important themes such as racial and gender equality, the power of education and knowledge, and the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Through its compelling storytelling and thought-provoking themes, “Hidden Figures” encourages viewers to reflect on the past, appreciate the progress that has been made, and strive for a more equitable and inclusive future.

Critics’ Reception

“Hidden Figures” received widespread critical acclaim upon its release. Critics praised the film for its engaging storytelling, strong performances, and uplifting message. The performances of Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe were particularly singled out for praise, as were the film’s historical accuracy and attention to detail. Overall, “Hidden Figures” was hailed as an inspiring and important film that sheds light on a lesser-known chapter of American history and celebrates the contributions of unsung heroes.

Why We Must Watch This Movie

  1. Celebration of Unsung Heroes: “Hidden Figures” shines a spotlight on the remarkable achievements of the African-American women mathematicians who played pivotal roles at NASA during the Space Race. Their contributions to America’s space program were largely overlooked and forgotten for decades, making their story an important and inspiring reminder of the many unsung heroes who have shaped our history.
  2. Inspiration for Future Generations: The film serves as an inspiration for future generations of scientists, engineers, and innovators, particularly women and people of color who may face barriers and obstacles in pursuing careers in STEM fields. By showcasing the achievements of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, “Hidden Figures” encourages young viewers to dream big, work hard, and defy expectations.
  3. Relevance to Contemporary Issues: While “Hidden Figures” is set against the backdrop of the 1960s, its themes of equality, diversity, and inclusion remain relevant today. The film serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for racial and gender equality in America and the importance of confronting systemic barriers and biases in our society.

Other Similar Movies

  1. “The Help” (2011) – Directed by Tate Taylor, this drama follows the lives of African-American maids in 1960s Mississippi and their relationship with a young white woman who aspires to be a writer.
  2. Selma” (2014) – Directed by Ava DuVernay, this historical drama chronicles the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches led by Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement.
  3. “Remember the Titans” (2000) – Directed by Boaz Yakin, this sports drama tells the true story of a high school football team in Virginia during the early 1970s, which is integrated racially and faces prejudice and discrimination.
  4. A Beautiful Mind” (2001) – Directed by Ron Howard, this biographical drama follows the life of mathematician John Nash and his struggles with schizophrenia while making groundbreaking contributions to game theory.
  5. “The Imitation Game” (2014) – Directed by Morten Tyldum, this historical drama tells the story of British mathematician Alan Turing and his team’s efforts to crack the German Enigma code during World War II.
  6. The Theory of Everything” (2014) – Directed by James Marsh, this biographical drama explores the life of physicist Stephen Hawking and his relationship with his wife, Jane, as he grapples with motor neuron disease and makes groundbreaking discoveries in cosmology.

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